Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services says the number of kids in state custody has dropped by roughly a third over the last few years. But DCS officials say they have to be ready for a rebound in planning for next year’s budget.
On one hand, because DCS is looking after fewer kids now, the department doesn’t need as much staff as it did a few years ago. But on the other hand, Commissioner Kathryn O’Day says she has to maintain some capacity, in case more children start coming in.
“We have been in an economic downturn for quite awhile; that does stress families. We’re seeing that number bounce back up a little bit. Now we’re going to do everything we can to safely keep that number down, but you don’t want to dismantle the system to the point where it’s going to be crippled if we do get a spike in kids coming into care.”
O’Day says it’s too soon to know how many jobs DCS might cut, if any. Because department turnover is high, O’Day says they might eliminate unfilled positions instead of firing people.